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Congress approves FY 2012 funding for Interior, OIA

reporters@samoanews.com

Merry Christmas American Samoa! And, especially good news for the financially strapped LBJ Hospital: the U.S. Congress has approved the FY 2012 appropriations bill for the Department of Interior, which includes the budget for the Office of Insular Affairs.

According to a press release from Congressman Faleomavaega’s office in Washington, D.C., dated December 22, 2011 — both the House and the Senate passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012, an omnibus bill that provides appropriations for most federal government operations in FY 2012.

The bill, H.R. 2055, contains appropriations for the Department of Interior in FY 2012, including $87 million for the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) to provide Assistance to the Territories.

Under OIA’s Assistance to the Territories, ASG will continue to receive $22.7 million to assist in government operations and about $10 million available for capital improvement projects (CIP) in the Territory.

Of the $22.7 million allocated for government operations, $14.2 million is budgeted for ASG’s basic operations, $7.6 million for LBJ Hospital Operations and $855,000 for the High Court.

In addition, CIP funds will help ASG address critical infrastructure needs including hospitals, schools, wastewater and solid waste systems. In the past couple of years, some of the CIP projects completed in the Territory included the new Leone Dispensary, classroom buildings at the Alofau and Pavaiai Elementary Schools, the Futiga Landfill Scale Office, the Water Supply System in the Manu’a Islands, and the connection of over 50 homes to the main sewer system in Tualauta.

“The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 is now on its way to the President for his signature. As it has been over the years, this bill, underscores U.S. government commitment to assist American Samoa and it is my hope that these funds will bring much needed assistance to our people,” Faleomavaega said.

The LBJ Hospital has said one of the reasons it seeks to raise its fees is because of the lack of consistent revenue sources, such as the subsidies it receives from the DOI and the local government.

The CEO of the medical center, Mike Gerstenberger noted during Fono hearings last week on the fee hikes that the DOI monthly subsidy was not consistent due to Congress not passing the appropriations bill, and DOI was operating on a continuing resolution.

Samoa News learned yesterday that the medical center is now delaying the fee hikes, however no mention was made of the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 as one of the reasons for the delay. (See separate story in today’s issue)

The LBJ fee hikes were planned to go into affect on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24th — this Saturday-- at midnight.

(Source: Congressman Faleomavaega Office press release)



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